March 6, 2013 marked the 40th anniversary of the first designated hitter in baseball. In 1973, Larry Hisle of the Minnesota Twins hit a three-run homer, then a grand slam as the DH, in a spring-training exhibition game against the Pirates. In an 8-4 vote before the '73 season, the AL owners approved the use of the DH on a three-year trial basis, launching a fundamental change to the game and differentiating play and strategy between the American and National Leagues. Throughout the past 40 years, many of baseball's greatest sluggers have filled the role of the DH. SI.com takes a look back at the top designated hitters in the position's history.
Although Brian Downing had few truly extraordinary seasons -- he made just one All-Star Game, hit over .300 one time and never hit 30 home runs -- the 20-year big leaguer put together an impressive career, the latter half of it spent as a designated hitter. Downing hit 275 career home runs with 1,073 RBI and an OPS of .796. He possessed a keen eye at the plate, drawing 1,197 career walks to boost his on-base percentage to .370.